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5 Displays of Emotional Intelligence at Work

emotional energy emotional fitness Feb 07, 2023

Emotional intelligence is not  about excusing or fixing.

With the best of intentions, your words and actions can fall flat.

This is not uncommon when managers fail to appropriately apply the components of emotional intelligence when called for.

Some of the most seasoned managers I coach are surprised when they receive negative feedback regarding the way they handle challenges involving their team members.

However, when applied in its simplest form, emotional intelligence is a powerful force.

Below is a personal account of several emotionally intelligent managers I had the good fortune to experience.

1. Empathy- The ability to identify with or understand another's situation or feelings (American Heritage Dictionary)

Lackluster would be an understatement to the beginning of my pharmaceutical sales career. 18 months in I had yet to hit any of my targeted goals.

Frustrated, I found myself increasingly put off by useless meetings and inconsistent direction by district managers. At one such meeting, my irritation was on full display. My manager did not let my behavior go unaddressed.

Walking me to my car, he pulled me aside. He noted my emotional state, “Melissa, I understand why you were irritated tonight. The meeting was long and disorganized. Little was accomplished.” He then went on to calmly let me know my reaction was inappropriate and would not be “on display” at future meetings.

After a brief pause, he simply said, “If you will allow me, I would like to take your frustrated, angry energy and help you use it to turn around your results moving forward.”

I accepted. My results turned around.

2. Self-Regulation - The regulation of one’s own behavior without external control or monitoring (American Heritage Dictionary)

Years later, after some success, frustration once again reared its ugly head. Only this time it was due to ongoing organizational change.

I was again vocal in my annoyance. While my annoyance was targeted at the circumstances, my manager took it personally. Weeks following this conversation, he reached out after he had taken the time to cool off. He needed to understand why our previous conversation angered him.

Having worked through his reaction to our last discussion, he was prepared to have a productive exchange. He asked, “Do you even like your job?” 

I responded, “Not at the moment”. Surprised yet appreciative of my honesty, he went on to offer his support in helping me get my head ‘back in the game’.

I did indeed get my head “back in the game”.

3. Social skills- Your ability to manage relationships with people around you for the betterment of all parties. (

Without fail during my sales career, when it came time to set my goals for the year, I always felt pressure (real or imagined) to say I wanted to rank in the top 10 or higher. With one manager, that changed.

“Where do you want to finish the year? Ideally, I hope it will be at least in the top 50 (or that will be a completely different conversation). However, you let me know where you want to be ranked.”

What a novel approach.

This manager then went on to communicate that each quarter, when the rankings were updated, if my results were not in line with the goal I had set, there would be a discussion. The discussion would then be about holding myself accountable for my results and responsible for any behaviors out of line with the goal I set for myself.

That year I exceeded my stated goal. 

4. Self-Awareness - Your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and their effect on those around you. (

Once, I experienced the enthusiasm and ambition of a newly promoted manager on overdrive. To be frank, I often found this individual lacking in self-awareness.

Then, surprising me, he tapped into a bit of self-awareness lurking just beneath the surface.

Discussing an upcoming sales call, he was excited to share with me what the ‘top sales reps’ were doing to improve their results. He went on to ‘suggest’ how I should proceed.  Listening without interruption, I remained silent. He finally filled the awkward silence.

“Of course, you’ve been successful as well.”

When I did not respond, he went on to redirect his approach to inquire how I wanted to proceed. During the call, he resisted the urge to interrupt, to take over the call, allowing me to follow my plan. It was flawless.

Our discussions remained collaborative moving forward. 

5. Emotional Mentoring - Helping others recognize and learn from their emotions and actions. (SkillPath)

What do you do when that long-awaited promotion does not pan out as you expected?

If you are lucky,  you have an emotionally intelligent manager that helps you to get out of your own way.

A year into a position of lateral leadership, my teammates and I were not on the same page, and things were not going well. It was suggested that I step down, and return to my old territory, to a position that I thrived in and enjoyed.

Noting my hesitancy, my manager let me know, “Whatever you decide, I fully support you and have your back.” He gave me the weekend to mull it over.  As I left for the day he shared this parting thought, “If you took your ego out of your decision, what would you do?”

I stepped down and went on to have my most successful year.

Moving Forward

Emotional intelligence, in theory, is simple  In practice, it can be tough, especially when emotions run high.

However, imagine being able to positively impact the mindset, behaviors, and results of your team. The rewards far outweigh the effort.

So, which of the emotional intelligence skills will you focus on strengthening first?